Gangs Of Lagos, Through The Lens Of The Exceptional Female Acts
One of the tales that resounds the most about the city that never sleeps “Lagos” is its rough life. Gangs of Lagos captures one of the many facts that make up what Lagos looks like.
Gangs of Lagos tells the story of people living in Isale Eko, shedding a major spotlight on the rivalry that exists among gangs. While the promised action-packed sequences of Gangs of Lagos are enough to keep us on the edge of our seats, its exploration of survival mixed with family and friendship makes it one of the most anticipated films of the year.
Fresh off the success of one of Nollywood’s greatest crime thriller action films, Jade Osiberu’s Brotherhood, comes another soon-to-be creative masterpiece that features several talented actors, elaborate scenes, and elements of suspense: ”Gangs of Lagos.”
With a mission to promote authentic African storytelling, Greoh Studios and the international streaming platform Prime Video partnered to produce and distribute Gangs of Lagos. Being Africa’s first original film from Prime Video, there were several high expectations placed on this film, and judging by the goosebumps experienced while watching the trailer, it’s pretty safe to say those expectations are totally worth it.
At the frontlines of this high-stakes film project are powerful women, whose work is seen not only in the embodiment of the characters but also behind the scenes. To gain deeper insights into the idea behind the story, what it was like on set, and spoilers you would love, Guardian Life had a chat with the film director, Jade Osiberu, and actors Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Bimbo Ademoye, Chioma Akpotha, and Iyabo Ojo.
At this point, we may as well start to slowly replace the word “action” with “jade” in the context of filmmaking. Over the past three years, the multitalented filmmaker has produced or directed not one but three action blockbuster films: Sugar Rush, Brotherhood, and The Trade.
The latest addition to her ever-growing portfolio is Gangs of Lagos, a film that represents the true stories of the people living in Isale Eko. Having co-written the screenplay, Jade recollects how the inspiration for such a relatively new concept came to her. It was as far back as twelve years ago, while she was shooting the 2013 web series “Gidi Up” in Isale Eko, that she saw a mother cooking dinner and feeding her children. Standing across the window, she thought about what it would feel like to live in Isale Eko, being stuck there and wanting more after generations. This scenario fuelled the flames for telling a story that contains a message of humanizing people whose lives we don’t understand.
Her time spent in Isale Eko also inspired several characters in Gangs of Lagos, hence why she ensured to play a critical role in the casting process. Selecting what actors to work with was barely a hassle as she picked Tobi Bakare, who she has worked with on Sugar Rush, to play Obalala, Adesua to play Gift, and Chike to play Ify. However, finding someone to play Kazeem, a gang leader, was quite difficult as it needed much range. Fortunately, Ola Rotimi came along and stood out at the auditions.
According to her, “Kazeem’s character progression in the film is one that only a master craftsman actor can pull together, and Ola Rotimi fits the bill immediately. It was actually a very Yoruba role, so I wanted a Yoruba actor to play it. I actually offered the role to a different actor, but Demi Banwo recommended Ola Rotimi, who’s a theatre actor and actually someone I’ve never heard of, but at the auditions, he nailed it, and I knew I had found Kazeem.”
Unlike her previous visit to Isale Eko, shooting a film this time was a challenge due to the unpredictability of the city and street harassment. Despite the setbacks, she is still keen on what the audience should take away from the film. “I hope it humanizes people whose lives we don’t understand. It’s a very revealing film. The world of politically connected thuggery. There’s some empathy, dreams, and love. I also hope people get entertained.”
The year was 2016, and we saw Adesua on our screens holding the hem of a gown while running in the film, “The Wedding Party.” Five years later, we have watched her become more than a leading lady in a rom-com as she embodies Gift, a badass gangster in Gangs of Lagos.
The journey to becoming gift wasn’t an effortless one, as it was hard physically, mentally, and emotionally. “I was 5 months postpartum while filming the film, so I was still nursing. It was definitely a challenge because I had to go through stunt training, brush up on my Yoruba, film for long hours, cater to my baby in-between takes, etc.
A good support system was a major factor that made filming easier. This created many memorable moments for the actress, as she narrates how the big fight scenes in the film were mind-blowing and fun. Working with other cast members and the director was also a huge plus, as she cites them as focused, cooperative, and possessing the right attitude.
When asked about Jade Osiberu, you could see a smile light up her face as she revealed, “Anyone that knows me knows I’m a huge fan of Jade Osiberu. Jade is a force; she is so talented, so daring, and so inspiring. I love her mind, and I love how she thinks big too. Jade could call me to nod in one scene in a project she’s directing, and I’d do it happily.”
Although initially auditioning for the role of Gift, Bimbo is glad to have played Teni. Her new role was a breath of fresh air from what she was used to, as Teni is calm and sophisticated, which helped harness her versatility as an actress.
Several similarities exist between Teni and Bimbo, as they are both from the hood and have watched gangs go about their daily activities. However, despite growing up in the hood, their dads made sure they never had anything to do with that lifestyle, sent their siblings and them to the best of schools, and each time we were home, we barely stepped out. The only difference is that Bimbo’s dad is definitely not a killer or a kingpin.
For Bimbo, the most challenging scene in the film was the rooftop scene in the heart of Lagos Island. “Even though security and protective gear were on standby, I felt like writing my will before filming the scene, not because it was dangerous, but because my extreme fear of heights made me think I wasn’t going to make it.”
When watching Gangs of Lagos, chances are you’ll be moved to tears while listening to Chioma Akpotha as Mama Ify delivers a compelling speech. Mama Ify is described as a supportive, steadfast, and kind mother who not only looks after her children but others as well.
The road to playing such an intense character that inspired the much-needed story of Isale Eko took Chioma back to her roots. Thankfully, Mama Ify is Igbo, which really helped, as I am an Igbo woman who grew up in Lagos. I had to search my childhood and draw from my mother’s experiences raising us, her children, and many other children from our neighbourhood. When I got into it fully, I started to embody Mama Ify.”
Among the hundreds of Nigerians excited about the release of Gangs of Lagos, one can easily label Chioma as the most enthusiastic, as throughout the interview a bubble of excitement hovered around her each time the film was mentioned.
We were not lying when we mentioned you were in for some behind-the-scenes tea. According to Iyabo, “A lot of work was put into making this production a success. from set designing, props, costumes, makeup, locations, etc. There was a particular day it rained heavily and the set built was destroyed, but what I loved about the crew was the teamwork in putting everything together again; the dedication, commitment, and show of excellence on the part of the cast and crew is mind-blowing!”
The efforts of the crew are one of the elements that make The Gangs of Lagos a powerful story. “Apart from being entertaining, I know the audience will learn that the foundation of every child is important; hence, marry the right partner, a responsible partner, so that your kids don’t end up like mine (speaking as Mama Oba)!”
To crown the glowing reviews each castmate has about Jade Osiberu, she said, “She is an excellent director, very deep in her craft, she pays a lot of attention to your delivery as an actor, she pays a lot of attention to the set and props, and she is still technically observant. Jade pays attention to detail! You hardly find a director who has all these qualities; I love her.”
Be a part of the experience
Dive into the epic world of Isale Eko through Gangs of Lagos. With its striking cinematography, relatable storyline, and lots of high stakes, this is an experience. Scratch that; a global cultural moment you want to be a part of
Gangs of Lagos is streaming exclusively on Prime Video.